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Are lawyers that bad?

By A.G. Kleijweg*


Dear Readers,


As a lawyer I often hear people say that lawyers are very expensive; take all your money and do nothing and more of that talk. After so many years, such talk still makes me a bit sad.


Nevertheless, where there is smoke, there is bound to be some kind of fire; so it seems a good idea to share some of my thoughts with the readers.


Are lawyers that bad?


Well, lawyers are human, with all their weaknesses but let’s look at ourselves. Our office gives people with problems free consultation, so they do not have to fear entering a lawyer’s office. If there is a possibility to get the problem addressed for free by other institutions like Het Juridisch Loket, we gladly provide that option to the people. In our office the lawyers try to do the job as well as possible; inform clients about the chances and possibilities of the case before the case gets started for a reasonable price.


Now before the readers might think, this is enough advertisement for today, it is certainly not only our office that works like that. I dare to say that most lawyers I personally know work the same way.


So, maybe the disappointed clients had too high hopes, or they indeed choose to make use of the services of ‘a-not-so-correct-lawyer’, if a lawyer at all. That is sad, but does not justify blaming the majority of lawyers. Now, some good advice on how to avoid disappointments!


How do I know that I am dealing with a lawyer?


Lawyer is a protected title. It is not easy to become a lawyer, so lawyers are proud to show that they made it to become a lawyer. They are also bound to a strict professional code, which offers good protection to their clients. A lawyer will always make very clear that you are visiting a lawyer. There is a sign outside of the office, it's on the business card, on the paper they use, everywhere. You cannot miss it, so if you decide to make use of the services of someone who claims to be a lawyer but not really one, please do not blame lawyers for your disappointments.


What can you expect from a lawyer?


The lawyer must have up to date knowledge of the law and the explanation that judges give to the law. Since there are so many laws and even many fields of law, that even the brightest lawyer cannot know them all and certainly cannot be up to date. A lawyer who is serious and knows his limitations, therefore shall specialise is a certain field of law.


This means that one must realise that if a lawyer says he personally can do all sorts of cases in all kind fields of law, he does not know his limitations and his knowledge cannot be up to date. In that sort of cases I would think twice before I would make use of the services of this lawyer.


How should it work then?


Let me give an example. I am specialised in Immigration law. This means that other cases, like divorces, conflicts with employers, landlords, the tax office, and so on, I do not handle them myself. I will turn to a colleague in (and if needed even outside) our office, who is qualified to handle the non-immigration problems that my client has. Let us imagine that we have a client with an immigration problem and trouble with the landlord, this person gets two different lawyers who know their respective business. Bear in mind, this is not more expensive or time consuming, so there is no reason not to work like this.


What to expect from a lawyer who is qualified to do the case?


A clear and honest advice to start with! The lawyer will explain what the chances are in your case. Of-course, everybody would like to hear that one is going to win 100%; sadly, that is often not the case. The lawyer will look at the case and will give his opinion. That might be a positive one, but it might be negative as well. Sometimes one just cannot get what one wants, no matter how much one wants it.


How to react on a negative advice?


Take it very serious and realise that lawyers make a living out of working for clients. So if a lawyer tells you, sorry, this case is not good, I advice you not to continue with it, then the lawyer is very honest, because for him it would be profitable to say, "Let’s give it a try".  To my surprise potential clients do not always appreciate this honesty and sometimes even get angry with the lawyer that gives this advice. Harsh words sometimes are spoken to me when I give such a negative advice.


Some of those clients go "shopping" until they find someone who tells them what they like to hear. They were told a few times by honest lawyers, your case is not good, let it rest, until they find somebody who says, "I will fight for you, I will take the case, I am confident" and more of that sweet murmuring sounds that never get written down on paper. Client happily lay the money down and goes home feeling good.  For the time being....


So, dear readers, if a lawyer was honest to the client, and after that another and another lawyer was honest to, and the client kept searching for a bad apple that tells them what he wanted to hear, is it then fair to blame lawyers in general for it?


What happens if a qualified and honest lawyer thinks your case is worth trying?


The lawyer will tell you what in his opinion the chances of your case are. More important, it will be confirmed to you in writing. No sweet murmuring, just ink on paper.


Also he will explain to you that his services must be paid for and whether there might be the possibility of subsidised legal aid. If it seems possibility he will check if your case can be dealt with on the basis of subsidised legal aid.


Based on the outcome of this check the lawyer will tell you whether subsidised legal aid is an option or not. If it is not an option, he will tell you the tariff he is to use in your case and he will tell you what you are expected to pay for handling the case. You will know beforehand so there are no nasty surprises. You will know what agreement you will be entering into. Again, it will be confirmed in writing.


This written confirmation is important so that it is clear from the start for lawyer and client what the basis for the co-operation is. So, are you going to trust your case to a lawyer who does not, from the start, give a written confirmation about the chances of the case and the costs for the procedure? I would not.


Now there you are; you have found a lawyer who knows his business, gave a straight forward opinion about the case, was clear about the money and confirmed it all in writing. Is that a guarantee for success? No, but your chances are much better now since you know what you are into from the beginning.


Where to find the kind of lawyer you would like?


Do not blindly rely on stories from a friend who knows a friend and so on. It is your case, so check it out yourself. You can go to the site and there you will find all lawyers in The Netherlands and their area of specialisation.


Also you can ask the lawyer that you are planning to visit what his specialisation is and if he is a member of any kind of "specialistenvereniging". Believe me, a specialist will be happy to meet a client who is appreciating his efforts to be a good lawyer and he will tell you all about his specialisation.


What to do when visiting any lawyer?


Those who want to visit a lawyer, I advise to take the following steps: Always ask first whether the first visit is for free and always make an appointment. Gather all the correspondence and paperwork about the problem you have. Even if this information is not so flattering for the client, take it. Always tell your lawyer the full story and take all information with you to the first meeting.


What to do when you want to visit our office?


Readers who are in need of legal support are welcome to visit our office for free consultation. Of course, this is only after you have made an appointment. For an appointment call 070 427 3215 and explain to our secretary what your question is.


Do not hold information back because our secretary will decide if and when an appointment is possible and which lawyer from our office is best qualified for the specific problem.


When you come to the appointment bring all information that is available. Only then can we judge the case and make good use of the time.


*A.G. Kleijweg. Balen van Andelplein 2e, 2273 KH Voorburg - 070.427.3215 -


Disclaimer: The articles on Legal Matters are for general information-purposes only, and may not apply to your situation. They do not take the place of a lawyer. For professional advice, we ask you to seek legal counsel.

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